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Cinema in Focus: ‘The Case for Faith’

This film, available only on DVD, is a compelling study of the common doubts of both believers and skeptics.

4 Stars — Uplifting

The visual presentation of Lee Strobel‘s book The Case for Faith is compelling. As a follow-up volume from his first book, The Case for Christ, the award-winning journalist applies his investigative skills once again to the questions of Christian beliefs by taking on the doubts that inevitably plague the thoughtful believer.

Using the loss of faith of Charles Templeton as a model for the way doubt can capture the mind, Strobel questions this personal friend and contemporary of Billy Graham. Noting that he was one of the greatest evangelists during the 1940s, Templeton explains in his own words the two doubts that cost him his faith. The first is what he calls “the insufferable claim that Jesus is the only true way to God,” and the second is the problem of believing in a good God when the world is full of suffering.

Further researching the question of what are the most common doubts that disturb Christians, Strobel finds that these issues are not unique to Templeton. Both are common not only to current Christians but are also found in the writings of major theologians of the past, including St. Augustine, who lived in the 4th century. Quoting Augustine, he expresses the second doubt in this way: “If there is no God, why is there so much good? If there is a God, why is there so much evil?”

In presenting the best answers to the “problem of evil” and the universal experience of suffering, Strobel takes us to conversations with leading theologians alive today as well as to some of the best Christian writers, such as C.S. Lewis. The list of scholars includes N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, England; Craig Hazen of Biola University; Gregory Koul, author of Stand to Reason; J.P. Moreland of Talbot School of Theology; and Ben Witherington of Asbury Theological Seminary. Additionally, Joni Eareckson Tada presents her own experience as a person living with suffering and experiencing God’s larger purposes working through her and her disability as a quadriplegic person. The final representative is Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church who provides a pastoral presence.

This documentary blends Scripture throughout the study and honors the intellectual difficulty of answering these questions. Struggling with doubt is part of the nature of faith, and the film neither shies away from the questions nor assumes that every person will find the answers satisfying. Explaining that he sent a copy of the manuscript to Templeton shortly before his death in 2001, Strobel recognizes that he may not have found his way back to the Jesus who Templeton honestly admits he misses.

The thoughtful presentation of the questions and answers of common doubts results in a film that is worthy of both believers’ and skeptics’ time and consideration. It is available only on DVD.

Discussion:

» The claim by Jesus that He is “the way, the truth and the life” and that “no one comes to the Father except by Me” is seen by Christians as a statement of fact. Therefore, it is not seen as an exclusive claim but a truthful explanation. What do you believe about this statement? What study have you done to support your belief?

» The explanation that God must allow human freedom because without it love is not possible also explains what happens when some humans choose not to love but rather to harm: People suffer. This “evil,” which is the inversion of the word “live,” is therefore only the misuse of human freedom and an inversion of the purpose of the lives we live. Does this answer satisfy you? If not, what is a more satisfying explanation to you for the suffering in our world?

» The respect that Strobel shows Templeton is how Christians should treat all people with or without honest doubts. Do you believe this is the common way that Christians treat others? Why?

Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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